Henry, C.A., Urban, M.K., Dill, K.K., Merlie, J.P., Page, M.F., Kimmel, C.B., and Amacher, S.L. (2002) Two linked hairy/Enhancer of split-related zebrafish genes, her1 and her7, function together to refine alternating somite boundaries. Development (Cambridge, England). 129(15):3693-3704.
The formation of somites, reiterated structures that will give rise to vertebrae and muscles, is thought to be dependent upon a molecular oscillator that may involve the Notch pathway. hairy/Enhancer of split related [E(spl)]-related (her or hes) genes, potential targets of Notch signaling, have been implicated as an output of the molecular oscillator. We have isolated a zebrafish deficiency, b567, that deletes two linked her genes, her1 and her7. Homozygous b567 mutants have defective somites along the entire embryonic axis. Injection of a combination of her1 and her7 (her1+7) morpholino modified antisense oligonucleotides (MOs) phenocopies the b567 mutant somitic phenotype, indicating that her1 and her7 are necessary for normal somite formation and that defective somitogenesis in b567 mutant embryos is due to deletion of her1 and her7. Analysis at the cellular level indicates that somites in her1+7-deficient embryos are enlarged in the anterior-posterior dimension. Weak somite boundaries are often found within these enlarged somites which are delineated by stronger, but imperfect, boundaries. In addition, the anterior-posterior polarity of these enlarged somites is disorganized. Analysis of her1 MO-injected embryos and her7 MO-injected embryos indicates that although these genes have partially redundant functions in most of the trunk region, her1 is necessary for proper formation of the anteriormost somites and her7 is necessary for proper formation of somites posterior to somite 11. By following somite development over time, we demonstrate that her genes are necessary for the formation of alternating strong somite boundaries. Thus, even though two potential downstream components of Notch signaling are lacking in her1+7-deficient embryos, somite boundaries form, but do so with a one and a half to two segment periodicity.